Eagles over London Review

The Film

Made in a somewhat more conventional dramatic mode, Enzo Castellari's war film about the Battle of Britain is a quite different beast to his irreverent Inglorious Bastards. Whilst his later movie was a lowish budget miracle of action and borrowed plots, Eagles Over London is more original and more easily compared with the British made World War 2 movies. in one respect though I find them very similar - where Inglorious Bastards out-guns its American prototypes such as the Dirty Dozen, Eagles Over London re-animates the fogeyish British genre of gritty endurance and basic pluck.

Whilst the uniforms, props and photography imitate this films predecessors, this is no simple rip off. The budget is very good and it shows - with crowd scenes, a lack of reliance on models, and the inclusion of two bankable American stars alongside good quality support from the likes of Luigi Pistilli(The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, Twitch of the Death Nerve). Similarly, the screenplay, massively edited down by Castellari and Tito Carpi, retains an excellent plot and some novel ideas. The lines and dialogue are a little off the peg but the central notion of Nazi infiltrators using the retreat from France to gain entry to England is quite clever.
In fact in this review I have gone a long way to differentiate this movie from Inglorious Bastards in order to be clear that my praise here is for quite different qualities. Eagles over London is first and foremost an intriguing suspense thriller with a story that holds up very well 40 years on. Playing to the gallery, a few clever compositions and angles apart, is not what this earlier Castellari does. It has an epic sweep with settings across Europe, and a strong sense of being of crucial historical import. The battle scenes are majestic with a mixture of studio sets, large models, and the use of split screens to mix the fictional footage with the real thing. The romantic sub plots offer the element of women in peril and some dimly lit fumbling as well, and I liked the suggestion of a doppelganger element matching Paul Stevens(Stafford), our volunteer hero, with Martin(Francisco Rabal), the noble German spy.

Given a strong production, a decent story, and an interesting cast, Castellari fashions a movie that is part romance, part espionage thriller and part war film, but wholly entertaining. Despite its more leisurely pace, more orthodox performances and a better grasp of history, Eagles Over London is nearly as good a film as the more fantastical action packed films of the director's later career.
For someone who grew up hating dull British war movies, Eagles over London kicks life into what I considered a dead genre. First and foremost it shows what this director was capable of when empowered by a decent production and a good screenplay, and for all its conventional ways it is awfully entertaining.

Technical Specs

Severin present the film with a 2.35:1 1080P transfer encoded with the AVC/MPEG-4 codec. The filesize for the transfer is 15.3GB and, a few faded inserts aside, it looks like this has been sourced from a very nice print. The image itself is sharp although you should not expect the levels of detail that the best HD transfers show, contrast is good rather than perfect, and the colour balance retains the dominance of blue hues in the picture. Edges are occasionally supported by enhancement, most obviously in light backgrounds, but ringing is not a big problem here.
Severin have avoided HD audio on their first blu-ray releases and here they choose to offer the film with a lossy surround track that offers coverage but little in the way of dimensionality or spatial definition. Some scenes seem a little echoey and those able to might choose to downmix this track. Dialogue is clear and the music, from Francesco De Masi, is reproduced well, and short of the choice of a surround mix over a mono one there are no real concerns with the mastering here.

Special features

Those of you already familiar with the conversation included on the Severin Inglorious Bastards release will know what to expect of the second part of it which is included here. Tarantino does all the questioning and all the answering again and enjoys comparing this film to others within the genre whilst the director smiles appreciatively and waits for a rare silence to say something of his own. Castellari's English is a little limited but he is clearly touched by QT's love of his work and does tell some nice stories about meeting Van Johnson, a hero of his, and how he got the gig in the first place.

The two are together again for Eagles over Los Angeles as this film is shown to an appreciative audience at the Silent Movie Theater in LA and the two talk about its virtues afterwards. Tarantino enjoys having a crowd to enthuse to about "Macaroni Combat", and Castellari relaxes enough to enjoy how his own film entertains the amassed fanboys.

A deleted scene which acts as a bridge between some fisticuffs between Rabal and Stafford and a deliberation of the Nazi war machine is included in subtitled form. Two HD trailers complete the package - all of the extras are presented in 1080I or 1080P.

Summary

A cracking movie is given a decent transfer with extras which will please Tarantino lovers.

Film
7 out of 10
Video
7 out of 10
Audio
5 out of 10
Extras
6 out of 10
Overall

7

out of 10

Last updated: 18/04/2018 18:22:08

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